GDS: The GS on the GDS – struggle where it matters most!

Numsa general secretary, Silumko Nondwangu, represented Numsa at the recent Growth and Development Summit (GDS). He spoke to Numsa News on the outcome and encourages Numsa members to follow up on agreements reached at the GDS by "struggling where it matters most" – in their own communities.

Can you spell out the positive things that came out of the Growth and Development Summit ?

There is a commitment on the part of government that it delivers on a massive scale on public works programmes (pwps), develops sectoral strategies. The latter didn't exist in the past.

There is also commitment on public initiatives and how they relate to infrastructure, to bring employees closer to where they work, to rebuild schools and clinics. And from now on government, parastatals and the private sector will have to report on how they are creating jobs.

Is there a process where they have to report back on what they have done?

It is not yet finalised but there is a commitment in Nedlac to do exactly that. For example, the Minister of Labour was explaining some of the things that are going to be done between now and the end of December. He will have to deliver on some of these commitments.

The other positive area is the agreement on co-operatives. Despite the fact that it contends with the logic of capital, government will support co-ops, and Sectoral Training Authorities (Setas) will have to provide training on co-ops. Another interesting area is that of unemployment, and promoting a better standard of life at local level.

There is a commitment to local initiatives. It means that post the GDS there are provincial summits to ensure that provincial governments translate the agreement into concrete programmes. And to ensure that local authorities become accountable to the budget process, there are public hearings in the context of the GDS. Although some of the decisions are vague, we can turn them around, so that government becomes much more accountable at a local level.

Numsa is involved in job summits in engineering and the automotive industry. Would you say that the GDS has added importance to these sectoral sumits?

Yes I think it's created space for us. It might also have brought the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) on board given the fact that up to now it has been running without labour being involved. It also creates space to discuss the issue of the creation of an industrial strategy. What becomes very important is how we ensure that we utilise this space.

How can an ordinary member make sure that they use this space?

For an ordinary member, part of the terrain that the GDS has created is a terrain for further engagement. It has created the space for ordinary members to ensure that in local communities if there are public works programmes (PWPs) that they contribute towards sustainable development. For example reconstruction of schools, clinics.

This they can only do if members participate, get involved and help set up local development forums, get a commitment from councillors that there are public hearings, so that members can say, 'these are the needs here, we don't have roads, we don't have water, there are no taps nor schools, this road needs rebuilding'. It poses a responsibility on our members to become much more involved in community issues now.

Would they be involved in community issues as Numsa, Cosatu, ANC or whatever?

The real issue is getting involved first and foremost in Cosatu structures ensuring that Cosatu drives the process. It is in the interest of Cosatu and the working class in general that the poor and unemployed benefit.

We have been driving the GDS, it is our responsibility, we must translate it into concrete agreements. One of the things we have to do is to engage in a process of developing an election manifesto so that some of the GDS agreements find expression in the election manifesto.

Given that now there are more democratic forums in communities for members to take part in eg. School Governing Bodies (SGBs), etc. does it also make sense for people to take part in these structures?

Real transformation is not going to take place just at the workplace. Ordinary members and shop stewards must take part in democratic structures like SGBs. For example the decision that was announced recently that there will be provision of free basic education to the poorest of poor – that will remain on paper unless our members participate in SGBs.

I'm quite impressed with some senior Numsa comrades in Pretoria who are participating in SGBs, but you don't see this elsewhere in the country, precisely because our members have not changed their mindset that transformation is about active participation and struggling where it matters most.

It is not about going to Numsa and Cosatu structures moaning there but doing nothing in your community. It's about getting involved in real community work, ensuring that there is reconstruction taking place, in SGBs, etc. and becoming actively involved in transforming your own communities.


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